FAQ #1: How many times per week should you do HIIT training? Although HIIT can speed up weight loss, doing too much quickly begins to interfere with your strength training and can even make it harder to build muscle. Thus, I recommend you do no more than two HIIT workouts per week when cutting.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is very effective for getting lean because you benefit from both an aerobic and strength-building workout. If your goal is to get lean and build a strong and toned physique, there's no better option than a high-quality HIIT workout.
Choose cardio that is easy on the joints (low impact) and easy on the muscles in subsequent days (won't make you sore). Rowing, cycling, swimming, elliptical trainers, or even lightweight barbell or kettlebell complexes could all be used.
To build muscle, you need to progressively demand more from your muscles. That generally means you need to lift heavier weights throughout the course of a workout. HIIT doesn't place you in an ideal position to do that. The rest periods never fully let you recover so you can lift with clean form.
If fat loss is your goal, HIIT isn't a prerequisite. "You need to be at a slight energy deficit and strength training to maintain muscle mass while losing body fat," Worthington said. "Going to a HIIT class will not improve your body composition. It might get you exercising, but it doesn't do anything else.
The cons of high-intensity exercise
When you dive into the studies and research on HIIT and the gyms using this workout, it is only for a short period of time. When performed daily for an extended period of time, it can put too much stress on your body and even cause injuries.
Lifting heavy, relatively speaking, is ideal for preserving strength and muscle mass during the cutting phase. Many novices and ill-informed individuals will lift with “light weights and high reps” thinking this will give them a “toned” look. While this is better than not lifting, this can lead to some muscle loss.
It does increase cardiovascular health, but it's not essential for people trying to lose weight. That's right – you can cut without doing traditional cardio.
You've gained muscle.
And here's an often overlooked fact: Muscle tissue is more dense than fat tissue. So as you gain more muscle and lose fat, you change your overall body composition, which can result in a higher weight, but a smaller figure and better health.
As well as making you look like a better version of yourself, HIIT helps you train like a better version of yourself. Performed correctly – flat out – it can increase body fat percentage burned per workout, improve resting metabolism, and boost lean muscle.
If you're a bodybuilder, HIIT can help you with quick fat loss for a more shredded look. If you compete as a strongman or woman, you can use HIIT to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers to excel at atlas stone carries, yoke walks, and log cleans. Powerlifters can use it to beef up their initial pull for the deadlift.
There's no exact answer for how much cardio is too much. But if you're not a distance runner, anything over 60-70 minutes per day is likely counterproductive—especially if you aren't consuming enough protein or calories to support the daily caloric expenditure.
General Fitness Recommendations
Vigorous-intensity training, such as HIIT, should be at least 20 minute per day for at least three days per week or 75 minutes per week. Or a combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity exercise.
The bottom line is that you don't need to drastically change your training program when you start cutting. Instead, keep following the same strength training program during your cut that you'd follow when eating more calories.
A cutting diet lasts 2–4 months, depending on how lean you are before dieting, and is normally timed around bodybuilding competitions, athletic events, or occasions like holidays ( 4 ).
Bodybuilders typically perform both strength training and cardio during a cutting diet or pre-contest phase. They do so while being very lean with little body fat and with the goal of maintaining as much as much muscle mass as possible.
You sure can. Working on your muscular endurance and maintaining a calorie deficit at the same time are going to double your efforts towards achieving a leaner and more toned appearance. You'll be improving the condition of your muscles and reducing the amount of fat that surrounds them.
You Should Train While Fasting
Even if your main goal is losing fat, you still need to lift, which prevents your body from burning through muscle to fuel your daily activities. You won't gain much muscle if you're fasting, but if you lift, you won't lose it, either.
That said, HIIT is extremely taxing on the body, so you shouldn't do it every day. Doing HIIT two to three times a week is more than enough, and you should aim to recover at least 48 hours between your workouts, per the ACE. LISS cardio is a great way to add variety to your workouts and prevent overtraining.
Can HIIT reduce stomach fat? The answer is yes, according to a 2018 meta-analysis, which looked at 39 studies involving 617 subjects. “HIIT significantly reduced total (p = 0.003), abdominal (p = 0.007), and visceral (p = 0.018) fat mass,” the study's authors said.
You can burn calories quickly using HIIT ( 8 , 9 ). One study compared the calories burned during 30 minutes each of HIIT, weight training, running, and biking. The researchers found that HIIT burned 25–30% more calories than the other forms of exercise ( 8 ).